Art in the times of the coronavirus pandemic - Times of India

NEW DELHI: “We need art through the good and the bad. For an art lover, luxury is a necessity; it is an essential to help us maintain our equilibrium in these trying times”, says Ritu Vajpeyi-Mohan, Publisher, DAG (Delhi Art Gallery).

She adds: “I am confident of the abilities of artists to create innovative and referential works that capture this moment in time.”

The gallery recently featured a digital fundraiser for COVID-19 relief, featuring 51 artworks from its collection. 100 percent of the proceeds of the sale will be donated. In a conversation with IANSlife, Mohan shares her views on the impact of the pandemic on the arts as a sector.

Read excerpts:

Q. COVID-19 has impacted every sector, industry and profession, art being no exception. How has the world of art been impacted?

Mohan: Art as a medium in traditional understanding has been a great moment for shared experience between artists and their communities. While it may certainly be created in isolation, art’s appreciation comes from its outreach with wider audiences and their emotional connect with a work’s potency.

The Covid-19 pandemic has greatly limited the physical intimacy between artworks and the public. We are now confined to viewing it in isolation and within the confines of screens, be it a mobile phone or a computer. The immediacy of our experiencing art has been limited, but enterprising art enthusiasts have been creating a multitude of forums whereby we can experience art by newer technologies, especially experiential, real time, augmented reality and virtual reality formats.

So while the sector has been impacted, artists and others in the eco system have also creatively adapted to the times by forging newer ways forward. Art’s great thrust has always come from the human imagination, and we see abundant examples of this all around us.

Q. In a way, art is a historian. Do you think the world might see some of it’s greatest works being born from this crisis?

Mohan: Art is definitely being created. Online forums are replete with examples of the same, though we shall perhaps have to wait for the end of this period to see the manifest ways in which artists have reacted.

The complexity or scale of the works shall also be apparent over time, once we understand the varied ways in which individual artists react to the current human predicament. Every age produces artistic excellence and we are surrounded by remarkable examples from the past. I am confident of the abilities of artists to create innovative and referential works that capture this moment in time.

Q. Luxury is known to be recession proof. Do you think that holds true for art despite the economic slowdown?

Mohan: Luxury to my mind is not the monetary value of an object, but the deep emotional satisfaction that it brings to our experience of life. People will continue to live, to create, nourish and sustain their everyday lives. Art shall be with them shoulder to shoulder, helping them move along in this journey. Art then is the balm that shall allow people to get on with their lived experiences through every vicissitude that comes their way. We need art through the good and the bad. For an art lover, luxury is a necessity; it is an essential to help us maintain our equilibrium in these trying times.

Q. To keep the conversation alive and client engagement in the arts, does DAG also plan to go all out with their digital platform?

Mohan: We have an online presence through our social media, YouTube channel and website. These have been active before the pandemic hit us and we have been effectively using these formats to reach out to our patrons and supporters.

We have also been reaching out to our network through more detailed analytics of our digital follower base and are trying to understand what they need and how best to service their queries and concerns. These are carried out with more personalised attention. Digital reflection is also allowing us to strategize on how best to serve our client base and anticipate future blind spots and gaps in our digital efforts. It is a constant space of learning and innovation and our teams are upgrading their digital skills and working at future proofing.

Q. Tell us more about this initiative and the works on sale at the DAG Fundraiser sale from April 20-30.

Mohan: At a time when the nation and the world is grappling with a pandemic beyond easy comprehension, our immediate instinct was to try and help efforts towards Covid -19 relief. The natural leverage we had to raise funds is our art inventory and we decided that this was the best time to hold an online Fundraise sale of 51 artworks.

An e-catalogue was designed in-house, in record time, all remotely between various team members functioning from the safety of their homes. We chose to have one artwork per artist thus putting together 51 artworks by preeminent Indian artists, adding up to a total value of Rs. 1 Crore. The prices of these artworks were made competitive and within the range of Rs 50,000 and Rs 5 lakhs to ensure healthy participation by larger audiences. Hundred per cent of the money raised by the sale shall be donated. Very early on we decided to support larger initiatives being run on National and State level that were transparent in their fund disbursal. Hence, our choice in supporting PM CARES & Lt. Governor/Chief Minister Relief Fund (Delhi). We are heartened by the unprecedented speed at which the sale has occurred and are hugely thankful to the art buying community for wholeheartedly supporting this pioneering initiative.

When asked how galleries such as DAG are coping with license fees and rentals across various galleries in India due to the COVID-19 crisis and whether the are being offered any support by their licensors, the Gallery refused to comment.

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